Robeson County and Lumberton are among more than a dozen local governments in Southeastern North Carolina that are pushing for a state study to determine the pluses and minuses of a deep-water port in Brunswick County. But this cash-strapped state has not provided the funding for such as study, which has given opponents, including our U.S. representative, an excuse to withhold support.
Economic development officials in this part of the state, including Robeson County’s top guy, Greg Cummings, see a deep-water port delivering thousands of jobs where they are needed, and as far inland as this county, which has land and highway that could do more than hold the Earth together. Cummings says Robeson County is ideal for large storage facilities where imported goods could be held in preparation for distribution.
But U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, whose District 7 includes Robeson and Brunswick counties, is not a fan of the port. He says the General Assembly’s decision last year to withhold funding for the study amounts to a death knell for the project by making it impossible to secure the required billions of dollars in federal funds. But McIntrye’s own comments betray his true position.
“Several concerns have been raised which have not been fully answered about the location and cost of the proposed terminal, the harm it could pose to our national security interests near our country’s major munitions terminal at Sunny Point and beside a nuclear plant, the lack of necessary infrastructure with roads and rails, and the potential for irreparable harm to the local communities and environment — all of this at a cost to taxpayers of several billion dollars,” he said.
All those points are potentially valid, but they only point to a need for the study, and not a scrapping of the project. This nation’s future is increasingly at the mercy of the growing global economy, and economically distressed Southeastern North Carolina needs to scratch for every crumb on the plate. A deep-water port in Brunswick County potentially could lead a renaissance of this region’s economy.
We understand the difficulties of this state’s economy, which led to some hard and unpopular cuts, particularly to education, when the General Assembly crafted the current budget. But we also know that those who don’t carefully plot an economic future will soon enough be living in the past.
There are plenty of questions about the potential of a deep-water port in Brunswick County. Not answering them only ensures they will keep getting asked.